Marc Hicks sits a lot.
His fold-out chair is a needed companion during football practice, where he is surrounded by constant motion. Hicks now uses a cane to cautiously navigate the field he once zipped across as the most coveted tailback recruit in the country 30 years ago at Davis High School as a 6-foot-2, 220-pound mixture of power, speed and instincts.
From his perch, Hicks pores over notes and scribbles down ideas in his first season as head coach at his alma mater. It's a role and a seat he never anticipated occupying, nor ones he particularly wanted. And it is easy to conclude Hicks doesn't need this gig and the burden that comes with it. But he does. He remains attached to football because it continues to define him.
From prep All-American to freshman sensation at Cal where Bears coach Joe Kapp compared to him to Gale Sayers to frustration at Ohio State and eventual career-ending injuries, Hicks long ago decided to write a better chapter. One of mentoring.
"I belong here, doing this," Hicks explained, gingerly rising from his chair.
Hicks' body is breaking down, slowed by a neurological disease called sarcoidosis. Rooted at the base of his spine with inflammation in his lymph nodes, it attacks his lungs, liver, skin, legs and vision. But his spirit endures.
Hicks, seemingly always smiling, assumed command of the Blue Devils when Steve Smyte abruptly resigned last month. The top varsity assistant the past three years, Hicks vows to continue the young Blue Devils' ascent under Smyte. Davis went from 1-9 in 2010 to 2-7 in 2011 to 5-5 last fall.
And Hicks leads the way without one of the team's top talents. His son, C.K. Hicks, Davis' top receiver, has been lost for the season with a blown-out knee.
"It happened right in front of me at a camp, 10 feet away, and he went down," Hicks recalled. "He gave me that look and said he heard it pop. I feel so bad for him. I bawled like a baby. I still haven't gotten over it. You want the best for your kids."
Hicks recalled how he tore three ligaments in his knee 22 years ago while working out for the World League of American Football in Florida. His career, once so filled with promise, was over at age 25.
"I knew I was done, and I knew the Lord must have had a better plan for me," Hicks said. "I knew deep down that I'd return to Davis and coach and work with kids, and that's what I've been doing, and I love it. Davis gave me a lot, a ton, so I'm doing the same."
Hicks said his ailments serve to inspire him.
"What I'm dealing with," he said, "is a lot like football. Don't quit. Keep fighting. Get up. Keep going."
Coach's work completed
With his work boots placed at the base of a nearby tree, the late Delta football coach and administrator Dick Dichiara supervised in spirit, his family and friends said.
Three weeks after Dichiara's death following a machinery accident on his property, his olive orchard project was completed at his Placerville home over the weekend. Family, friends, ex-players and students cleared brush, cut trees, dug ditches, planted irrigation pipes and told stories.
His work boots, which were removed by first responders, may remain at the tree as to oversee progress.